10 Great Employee Retention Strategies


Employers need employees. Employees need employers. It’s a basic relationship that works – except when it isn’t working. To keep your best employees, sometimes you need to implement a retention strategy that will do more than treat them fairly or offer them the highest compensation package possible. Unfortunately many employee retention strategies are implemented from the view of the employer instead of the employee and that’s why they end up failing.

If your turnover rates are going up and your loyalty rates are going down with your best employees, then it might be time to implement one of these strategies starting today.

#1. Track Your Turnover Rates

Unless you have specific knowledge about what is going on, then you really can’t do anything about employee retention. It’s been said that 3 out of every 4 employees quit because they’re having trouble with their direct supervisor. If you’re not sure which supervisors could be causing your best people to leave, then you can’t implement coaching or training to improve the situation.

This means you’ll need to create metrics that reflect the values of your internal environment, but have them be based on standards that you are seeing in your industry. If your industry sees 75% turnover rates, then you’re already above the curve if your turnover rate is 60%. This information will affect your future strategies.

Here are some ways that you can get started.

  • Hold team meetings without the direct supervisor present so that your employees can feel safe enough to express difficult feelings they may have.
  • Visit each team or working site to get a feel of the atmosphere each supervisor is creating.
  • Compare turnover rates between supervisors and the compare environments to see what may be affecting employees.

If you’re not sure where you stand within your industry, then there’s a good chance that your retention strategies might be some of the worst there are. Get data, use it, and then base your future strategies off of what you collect.

#2. Get Your Supervisors On Board

You might have the best employee retention strategies in the world, but it won’t matter if your supervisors haven’t bought into the solution. Having good supervisors is critical to the retention of your best employees. If you have them implementing a series of best practices that is focused on employee retention, then you’ll be able to start building employee loyalty over time.

It all starts with training. You need your supervisors to be operating on the same page. This will allow you to more easily identify those supervisors who are, as Warren Buffet once describes it, swimming naked. You can spot them when the tide goes out.

What are the best practices your supervisors should be implementing?

  • Regular meetings with their teams should be held so that clear expectations on performance and long-term goals can be communicated.
  • Appropriate feedback should be offered to each employee so they have the tools needed to perform their jobs at consistently high levels.
  • Encourage and reward performances that go above and beyond expectations.

Far too often, supervisors express their gratitude to their employees with form letters, rubber-stamped cards, and hollow words. Employees don’t want this stuff. They want something that proves what they do is genuinely meaningful. A simple email or handwritten note of thanks can be very powerful, but only if it is authentic.

#3. Hire Slow, Fire Quick

You’ve got an open position that needs to be filled as soon as possible. The rest of the team is overworked as it is and they need an extra set of hands. The supervisor is pressured from the executive team to find the right person immediately. This has created the “warm bodies” hiring philosophy. In other words, anyone is better than no one.

This isn’t true. Hiring the wrong person for a job not only leads to higher turnover rates, but it also continues an increased workload on the employees who really are qualified to get the work done. Although it can be painful to have an open position for an extended period of time, it’s important to hire slow to make sure you get the right person with the right experience into the position.

It’s also important to remove employees from a team when they are being disruptive. This is the “fire quick” part of this retention strategy. Yes – terminating employee contracts can improve overall retention. Here’s why.

  • Employees who are not following policies and procedures encourage other employees to do the same.
  • Employees who do not have a regard for workplace rules are more likely to be using their paid hours to surf the internet, play on their smartphone, or do anything else but the bare minimum to maintain their job.
  • Employees work to the expectation levels that are set for them, so maintaining high standards of conduct will naturally encourage more productivity.

Don’t fall for the temptations offered by the “warm bodies” hiring technique. It almost always leads to high turnover rates.

#4. Offer Opportunities

Not every employee is going to dream of being the CEO of the company one day. Some employees like an entry-level job because it allows them to maintain a balance between work and home. Others may see themselves as a future entrepreneur, needing to develop specific industry skills in order to start their own business one day.

The fact is that every employee can build skills, but some supervisors hold employees back because they’re trying to maintain their own management position. Retaining the best employees requires the creation of a pathway to better pay, greater benefits, and more overall responsibility. This is why you need to implement this strategy if you have not already.

  • People need recognition for the good things that they are doing. Loyalty to an employer builds when there are feelings of accomplishment and success present.
  • People also need variety. Someone might be happy with data entry tasks today, but maybe tomorrow they’d like to work in the credit department. Having structures in place to accommodate this variety can keep your best people around.
  • People are also human. They are ultimately loyal to themselves first. Offering skill development appeals to this need by creating a value proposition. You make the employees better and they make you better in return.

If there are no opportunities, then it will be difficult to retain your best employees because they will go somewhere else where there are opportunities.

#5. Create Flexibility

The demands of a modern life are intense. Kids need to get to school. Doctor appointments need to be kept. Household repairs need to get done. The dog might need to go to the vet. When a workplace has rigid rules in place that make it difficult for people to get their personal needs met, then it becomes difficult to retain the best employees.

This is why one of the best employee retention strategies is to create flexibility within your workplace. Technologies are in place that can let many workers be able to complete at least some of their tasks from home. Schedule variability and other needs can also be met if you’re willing to be flexible. Here’s what happens when you can accommodate the personal responsibilities of your employees.

  • Workers feel like you care about them and their needs, which helps to build employee loyalty and long-term relationships.
  • Workers become more productive because they no longer need to worry about how they are going to juggle personal and professional responsibilities.
  • Workers become brand ambassadors because they have bought into your philosophies and begin telling others about how they love working for you.

There will always be those employees who attempt to abuse a system of flexibility, but they are a minority group. These are the people you don’t want to retain anyway. Instead of structuring your workplace environment around controlling the worst employees, consider structuring it around what motivates your best employees. In doing so, you may be able to see a reduction in your turnover rates.

#6. Implement an Anti-Stress Program

According to The American Institute of Stress, 46% of employees are experiencing high levels of cortisol in their bodies because of their workload. 28% say that they are tired of dealing with people issues. 6% say that the biggest stress factors at work have to do with job security. What makes stress unique is that it is highly personalized, so two employees might react very differently to the same situation.

1 in 5 employees have quit a job because of the stress they encountered. 1 in 10 will call in sick because of job stress. This is why implementing an anti-stress program at work can be a very effective employee retention strategy. Here are just a few ideas that might be included as part of a program within your workplace that have already been implemented by other companies.

  • Creating a “nap room” where employees can spend time decompressing, catching up on some sleep, or relaxing away from the problems of the job for 30-60 minutes.
  • Instituting a mandatory period of guided meditation at some point during the day while employees remain on the clock.
  • Adding benefits, such as a company-run daycare, that can help people manage stress in other areas of their life that they bring into the workplace.

It is estimated that stress on its own costs employers in the United States upwards of $300 billion per year. Although this employee retention strategy may have some costs associated with it, think of it more as an investment than a cost. There’s a funny thing that happens with many investments – they pay dividends. In this case, the dividend is a greater chance of retaining your best employees.

#7. Change Your Benefits Package

There’s often an age gap between the executive team and the entry-level workers that are the lifeblood of a company. When the benefits packages are being considered, many of them are designed based on what the executive team wants instead of what the entry-level workers may need. If someone is thinking about changing jobs, there’s a good chance that there is more than just salary involved in that equation.

Sometimes you may need to adjust what an employee is being paid, especially if your best people are basically doing the work of two or three people. Most companies, however, need to take a look at the other issues that make an employee want to stay at the company. Here are some ways you might be able to tweak your benefits package to make it more appealing to your best workers.

  • Add vacation days for employees as a bonus for work that goes above and beyond expectations.
  • Look for ways that you could lower monthly health insurance costs for workers by implementing wellness programs or other approved strategies.
  • Consider increasing retirement program matching dollars, tuition reimbursements, or assist in other ways that employees use in an attempt to better their lives.

Employee retention strategies always boil down to a value proposition. Are you offering each employee enough value so that they will want to work for you instead of working for someone else? By changing your benefits package so you can offer more rewards or more choices, you might be able to keep your best people from leaving.

#8. Eliminate the Middleman Or Middlewoman

Now that we’re firmly in the information age, people are taught that they can get whatever access they need if they’re willing to make an effort. This proactive attitude is highly coveted in employees, but many companies unknowingly try to repress it. They do so through their corporate structure. Instead of allowing junior or entry-level employees access to the executive team, a buffer of middle management is put into place that serves as the go-between for the two groups.

This is done under the excuse of efficiency, but ultimately the people in the middle or seen as a barrier. The executive team as the best knowledge in the company and those at the bottom are not invited to sit at the same table. That’s why eliminating this buffer can be a great employee retention strategy. Now that doesn’t mean you sure fire all of our middle managers. It does mean you may need to take steps like this.

  • Share the minutes of your board meetings or executive team meetings so that everyone knows what is going on within the company.
  • Allow employees to apply to join executive meetings or board meetings and encourage them to write or share what they learned with the rest of their team.
  • Encourage employees to be curious about how the mission of a company can progress so they can create their own innovative solutions.

Far too often, the questions which the best employees always have are often treated as a form of insubordination. Sometimes executives need to own their mistakes. Sometimes junior employees need to have access to the executive team so they can see what was learned from those mistakes. When the culture at a business does not encourage growth and interaction, then it is a culture that is ultimately encouraging high turnover rates.

#9. Build a Freeway

One of the hottest trends in the business world today is to let workers take their pets to work. Dogs, cats, iguanas, and other more exotic pets are making their way into cubicles and offices around the world because it’s an easy way to let people connect their personal and professional lives together in a meaningful way. Employers often want their workers to be as productive as possible at work, so they limit access to Facebook, Twitter, social gaming, and other “time wasters.”

Yet these same employers have no problem when an employee puts in extra time outside of their scheduled hours to promote the business. We’re already blending personal and professional lives on many levels. That’s why an effective employee retention strategy is to turn the one-way street into a freeway.

Workers don’t see themselves engaging in a 9-5 grind any more. Their job has become an extension of who they are. That means they want personal time at work and they want professional time at home. Here are some additional ways you can begin to build that freeway.

  • Allow workers to be able to flex their hours so they can work their 8 hour shift in whatever combination they want.
  • Give workers the chance to work from home a couple days per week or institute days where there are no meetings allowed so people can take more control over their work.
  • Offer workers the chance to create a home environment at work. This might mean plants, an aquarium, a bookcase, or whatever their personal style may be.

Of course there are limits to this. If someone raises Newfoundland dogs at home, you can’t have them bringing in all 40 of their dogs into the office at once. Some may say if you give workers an inch, they’ll take a mile. This isn’t necessarily true. If you give workers an inch, they’ll give you some potentially lower turnover rates.

#10. Personal Working Styles

The glue that makes a team or an organization work is trust. Without trust, nothing gets done. Workers must trust the processes listed in a company’s best practices to be productive. Employers must trust employees to get the job done. By trusting your processes, you can build teams, brands, and long-term relationships. In this instance, let’s talk about personal working styles.

There was this kid in high school who was a genius. His GPA was above 4.0 with extra credit. He had multiple acceptance letters from Ivy League schools. You’d never guess it if you watched his studying practices. He needed to have his television on, his radio on, and something on his computer in order for him to focus. It was chaos, but it worked for him.

The fact is that each worker has their own unique working style. It’s what works best for them, which means it will always be what is best for business for you.

Some people thrive in chaos. Others thrive in solitude. The best employees stick around when employers can give them access to their own personal working styles that they’ve developed over time. This isn’t always easy to do, but there are some tricks that you can use to make this happen if you’re interested in this employee retention strategy.

  • Ask people what their preferred working style happens to be and accommodate it as best as you can on a regular basis.
  • Let people design their own work areas without interference so they can create an environment which serves their needs.
  • Invest into training seminars, webinars, and other options that can help employees identify and enhance both their strengths and their weaknesses with their working styles.

People can adapt, but adaptation takes energy. If employees are constantly trying to adapt to changing circumstances, then they have less energy to be productive. Maybe someone needs chaos to thrive. Maybe they need to be given a solitary position instead. If you can find a way to provide that, you’ll have a better chance of retaining your best employees.

In Conclusion

Employee retention will always be a point of emphasis because the costs of turnover can be enormous. It costs as much in the first year to train an employee as it does to pay their salary. If you have workers leaving on a regular basis, then you’re shelling out a lot of cash to keep training people who aren’t sticking around. This is why you need a strategy to keep the best people.

It might be an added cost now, but your investment will pay you back multiple times when your workers stick around, build your brand, and become your ambassadors. If you’re willing to work with employees, then you’ll find that employees are much more willing to work with you. That is a value proposition which everyone can appreciate.